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Race Matters

A first-year learning community that offers students a deep and broad engagement with race and ethnicity in the contemporary world.

Race Matters is an interdisciplinary learning community for first-year students dedicated to the examination of the role of race, ethnicity, and related “race matters” in the twenty-first-century. Many of these “race matters” occur at the intersection of race with one or more related axes of identity, such as gender, sexuality, religion, and class. For instance, Race Matters considers the experiences of Muslims and South Asians since 9/11; it examines the diverse communities, histories, and individual experiences grouped under labels such as “Asian American” and “Latinx”; it takes up the role of gender and sexuality within racial and ethnic communities, as well as within movements such as Black Lives Matter; it attends to shifting ideas about citizenship, immigrants, and refugees; it looks at the increasing visibility of self-identifying biracial and multiracial individuals and communities; and it explores the role of geography, technology, demographics, and broader economic and political forces in shaping race matters in the present.

The Race Matters curriculum bridges the humanities and the social sciences, offering students a deep and broad engagement with race and ethnicity in the contemporary world. Furthermore, in keeping with the college’s so-called “STOGOALS,” Race Matters provides students with a valuable opportunity to “recognize and confront injustice and oppression” and focus attention on cultivating the ability to “understand, learn from, and respect differences” at an important, early stage of their college careers.

In the 2021-2022 academic year, the roughly 18 Race Matters students will enroll in three courses* together: one during the fall semester, one during interim (St. Olaf’s four-week January term), and one during the spring semester. These courses will include a special first-year seminar during the fall, a special section of SOAN 121: Introduction to Sociology during interim, and a special Writing and Rhetoric seminar in the spring. With these courses, all Race Matters students will fulfill four OLE Core general education requirements: first-year seminar (fall), social science (interim), power and race (interim), and writing and rhetoric (spring).

*NOTE: The Race Matters program is currently seeking approval to shift from a two-course sequence (fall and spring) to a three-course sequence (fall, interim, and spring) for the 2021-2022 academic year. Adding a third course would enable Race Matters to include more robust opportunities for community and civic engagement.  Please note that if Race Matters becomes a three-course sequence, Race Matters students will not be able to take part in the Integrated Introduction to Chemistry and Biology (CH/BI) learning community, as both would require a course during interim. If you have any questions, please reach out to the program director for Race Matters, Professor Jon Naito (naito@stolaf.edu).